What’s In A Name?

I just read a story of a young man in Egypt who decided to name his first born daughter “Facebook” to commemorate the way the social networking site helped protesters get organized to topple Hosni Mubarak.  Alexia Tsotsis , writing for TechCrunch and citing a story in Al-Ahram, stated that while the girl could have been called YouTube or Twitter or Google, “it seems like Facebook has become the umbrella symbol for how social media can spread the message of freedom.”

This story got me thinking about one of my favorite data stories – the most popular baby names of the year.  Every year the Social Security Administration puts together a list of the Top 1,000 baby names in the U.S.  – and they can produce it for any year back to 1880!  They also let you see how your State stacks up, though only for the Top 100 names and only back to 1960.

While I am sure there have been a few kids named Google over the last couple years, fortunately for the children, and society as a whole, it falls out of the rankings.  I have read stories about children named after cars (Lexus, Mercedes, Acura) and alcohol brands (Merlot, Tequila, Brandy, and how about naming your kid Captain Morgan!), and have felt sorry for children pegged with names that can be easily twisted into something embarrassing.

Let’s look at the numbers for 2009.  The Top 5 for males were Jacob (Jakob was #325 and Jakobe was #954), Ethan, Michael, Alexander and William.  [Michigan matched the U.S. on two of the Top 5 with Jacob and Ethan.  Rounding out the list were Logan, Noah and Aiden.]

The last 5 were Tyshawn, Amos, Cassius, Eliezer and Mustafa.  If you like designers you get Armani at #552.  If your taste goes to also-ran Vice Presidential candidates you will find that Tripp garnered a ranking of 671.  So-called individuality is alive and well in the variations on a theme:  Jayden, Jaydon, Jaydan, Jaydin, Jaden, Jadon, Jadyn, Jaeden, Jaiden, and Jaidyn.  Alas….Kurt was nowhere to be seen, though Curtis got a 393 ranking.

One hundred years earlier (1909), the Top 5 names for boys were John, William, James, George and Robert.  While a number of names tied for last place, allow me to give you a taste of the variety:  There was Adelbert and Angel, Caesar and Christ, Dolphus, Eunice, Hoke, Lenwood, Martha (can you imagine if he was our 1st President?), Milburn, Minor and Murl.  Things must have been real exciting on the playgrounds of 1909!

Next time we will see what the parents of 1909 and 2009 did to their daughters!